Today’s teachers know the powerful role that technology plays in keeping kids engaged in the classroom. They also know all too well the challenge of finding funds to pay for the tools their students need, whether it’s an interactive projector that brings presentations to life or tablets that allow each child to conduct research independently.
The good news is that with a little persistence and creativity, you may just find that the money is out there. Here are seven resources to help secure the funds you need for the tech to push your class itinerary to the next level.
Partner with the parent/teacher organization or booster club
Chances are you already work closely with these groups, but you might be surprised that they often aren’t aware of the different needs teachers—and their classes—have. Talk to the meeting organizer about getting on their agenda so you can attend a meeting and make your ask in person.
If they don’t have a dedicated fund to devote to your tech needs, suggest they assign the proceeds for an existing or new fundraiser specifically to your newest project, such as creating a tech-forward makerspace. For example, if your school regularly holds an auction or a Fun Run, designate the makerspace as the beneficiary of some or all of the funds, or have one activity associated with the larger event, like the paddle raise at an auction, be dedicated to supporting your classroom’s technology fund.
In addition to the parent organization at your school, see if the school district has a foundation that might also award funds for technology upgrades.
Explore grants from the local city or county council/Chamber of Commerce
Many cities award grants to worthy local groups; just visit your town website, or call the public information officer or external communications liaison to find out what’s available and how to apply.
Also check with your local chamber of commerce; they may give grants themselves and/or they might know about member companies that have donation programs that could be the perfect fit.
Think outside the box to companies where parents work
Many companies, both large and small, offer grants for worthy causes suggested by their employees. Often these grants are available by internal request only, so the key is to have the employee ask about them. How will your parents know if they are eligible? Create an article for your school’s newsletter to encourage them to ask their HR department. (Sometimes employees skip over parts of their benefits information that aren’t immediately pertinent to them and they may not even realize such a fund exists!) With the right encouragement and instruction, parents’ HR departments may become a great tech resource.
Appeal to local or national corporations
Some larger companies also sponsor grants that are available to the public. Do some web research to find out what might be available from corporations, both local and national. Often you might have better luck convincing a local company of your need, but larger companies might have deeper pockets.
Ask parents in your classroom
You never know what your students’ parents will support until you ask. The beginning of the year and/or holidays are great times to develop a “wish list” that you can send to parents or discuss at back-to-school night. Even though you might be more apt to get funding for smaller requests, you might as well at least ask for a specific item you need, such as a document camera. A parent might step up to donate the whole amount, or several families might each contribute a portion.
Research options at companies that provide the technology
Some companies might have special discounts for education or other programs specific to the education market, such as Epson’s Brighter Futures program. Contact the manufacturer and/or retailer and see if there are any special incentives you could take advantage of to help stretch your resources even farther.
Check into grant-specific databases
GetEdFunding and GrantSelect are two fantastic grant aggregators that can help connect you with opportunities from government and state agencies, companies and corporate foundations, research institutes, non-profit organizations and charitable foundations. (GrantSelect is a fee-based service, but it might be well worth the investment.)
Four Ways to Make Your Request Stand out
1. Make the request in person whenever possible.
If you are asking an organization for money, see if you can get on their meeting agenda rather than just sending a letter or written request. If possible, bring along a couple of your students who can articulate how the technology will help them with their projects; having your students make the request can be an important ingredient in helping the request resonate with the audience and can help sway their decision.
2. Ground the request in facts.
Emotional pleas can work wonders, but it’s even better if they are backed up by solid facts. If the piece of technology will save time or money over the long run or will help boost students’ scores, make a business case using as much research as you can.
3. Be specific.
It’s fine to ask for a new projector but it’s much more enticing to ask for an “interactive projector” that will allow you to access new types of content and keep kids engaged in the lesson.
And don’t just focus on the “cool factor” or “gee whiz” elements: Remember that it’s unlikely that anyone will support your request for technology if they don’t see it meeting an immediate need. Explain how the technology will create a more flexible learning environment or will enhance Common Core State Standards by making instructional time more effective.
4. Aim for tech that’s self-sustaining.
When you make a request, it’s not unusual to initially face pushback from your superintendent or IT team, who may fear that the new tech equipment will require too much maintenance and ongoing expense. That’s why you need to do your research up front, and make the case for a one-time infusion. For example, when considering ideal technology to use in a “Genius Hour,” choices that are “one and done” can seem more appealing because it won’t be an ongoing budget drain.
Also assure donors that their investment will be protected because you will be choosing technology backed by a reliable company with an extended warranty and low maintenance costs.
Ready to get your back-to-school tech request list ready? Read more about Epson’s education solutions that will help bring your classroom to life.